County ac­cel­er­at­ing body cam­era pro­gram

The Avenue News - - Front Page - By VIR­GINIA TERHUNE vter­hune@ches­pub.com

Bal­ti­more County is ac­cel­er­at­ing its body cam­era pro­gram and chang­ing some of its po­lice pro­ce­dures to bet­ter un­der­stand and im­prove in­ter­ac­tions be­tween of­fi­cers and cit­i­zens.

The hope is that body cam­eras and other changes

will help the county avoid cases of po­lice in­volved deaths in the fu­ture, said Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz, who an­nounced the ini­tia­tives at a re­cent press con­fer­ence in Tow­son.

A Mid­dle River man, Ta­won Boyd, died at Franklin Square Hos­pi­tal on Sept. 21 after a vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion with of­fi­cers who had re­sponded to a call from his apart­ment for med­i­cal help.

Ran­dall­stown res­i­dent Kor­ryn Gaines was killed on Aug. 1 and her five-year-old son in­jured after a stand­off with po­lice who had come to serve a bench war­rant for traf­fic vi­o­la­tions.

Kamenetz said the ini­tia­tives an­nounced Oct. 19 were not cre­ated in re­sponse to the two spe­cific cases but to an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of in­ci­dents over time in­volv­ing po­lice use of force.

The hope is that such in­ci­dents can be avoided in the fu­ture with a wider use of body cam­eras and in­creased train­ing in de-es­ca­lat­ing po­ten­tially-vi­o­lent en­coun­ters.

Bal­ti­more County States At­tor­ney Scott Shel­len­berger has also said that body cam­eras help of­fi­cers by record­ing events from their point of view and more of­ten than not, vindi- cat­ing their ac­tions.

“I think it’s a pos­i­tive thing,” said Dave Pa­tro, pres­i­dent of the North Point Vil­lage com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tion, who also sits on the Precinct 12 cit­i­zens ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

Pa­tro said some res­i­dents see the videos as vi­o­lat­ing cit­i­zen pri­vacy rights, but he said most agree that it helps record what ac­tu­ally hap­pened as op­posed to re­ly­ing solely on con­flict­ing ac­counts.

“You can see the truth right away,” he said.

The county kicked off its body cam­era pro­gram in July with a hand­ful off of­fi­cers in each precinct re­ceiv­ing train­ing to use them.

Right now 128 of­fi­cers are wear­ing cam­eras with the goal of hav­ing most county of­fi­cers wear­ing them by De­cem­ber 2018, said Kamenetz, who is au­tho­riz­ing more money for over­time to train more of­fi­cers sooner.

Forty of­fi­cers were being trained per month now, and 144 of­fi­cers will be trained per month in the fu­ture, push­ing the com­ple­tion date up by more than a year to Septem­ber 2017, he said.

The depart­ment is also tight­en­ing pro­ce­dures for deal­ing with sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions.

Of­fi­cers typ­i­cally work with de­tec­tives on such cases, but ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, ev­ery se­cond-de­gree sex­ual as­sault vic­tim and the re­ported as­sailant will be in­ter­viewed by a de­tec­tive on the depart­ment’s sex­ual as­sault unit, he said.

The county will also be re­view­ing three years of sex­ual as­sault in­ves­ti­ga­tions that did not re­sult in pros­e­cu­tions with the help of re­tired Bal­ti­more County Cir­cuit Court Judge Bar­bara Howe and the Mary­land Coali­tion Against Sex­ual As­sault.

The third ini­tia­tive in­volves an in­de­pen­dent re­view by the Coun­cil of State Gov­ern­ments Jus­tice Cen­ter of how Bal­ti­more County deals with men­tally ill peo­ple who do not re­spond to or­ders dur­ing an in­ci­dent.

The cen­ter will also look into in­ter­ac­tions with peo- ple of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and races.

When asked if he thought the depart­ment was lack­ing in cul­tural com­pre­hen­sion, Kamenetz said he doesn’t look at a glass as half empty but half full.

“[Pro­ce­dures] can be re­fined and im­proved so that we can be the best that we can be,” he said.

Of­fi­cers are trained to take con­trol of a sit­u­a­tion in or­der to pro­tect the pub­lic and them­selves, but in re­cent years, as a re­sult of po­lice-in­volved deaths around the coun­try and law­suits about ex­ces­sive use of force, more em­pha­sis is being put on de-es­ca­la­tion tech­niques. Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Vir­gini­aTer­hune.

FROM BAL­TI­MORE COUNTY PO­LICE DEPART­MENT

In early July, 150 pa­trol of­fi­cers be­gan wear­ing body cam­eras, some of which can be mounted on col­lars or epaulettes.

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